Monday, August 25, 2008
Monday Night TV Shows Take The High Road
The remaining NASCAR TV partners offered the one-hour review programs on Monday dealing with the Bristol races. Three NASCAR series raced on the small oval, but the fireworks were reserved for the Sprint Cup Series on Saturday night.
ESPN2 was up first with the one hour of NASCAR Now. Allen Bestwick is the host and refers to this show as "the roundtable." Joining Bestwick was Boris Said, Johnny Benson and Mike Massaro.
The presentation of this program is classy from the start. The three panelists are in suits and ties and the set is squeaky clean. Bestwick is polished and covers any type of NASCAR topic with the knowledge of a total professional.
Said and Benson addressed the reality of Bristol with Benson having finished fourth in the NCTS race on Wednesday and continuing to lead the point standings. It was the clash at the end of the race that generated the most discussion, with Massaro offering the best question.
He asked if the new two-groove Bristol track meant that the old-style racing where moving another car out of the way was still allowed? His point was well-taken, but the consensus was that Bristol will remain Bristol and rubbing will always be a part of NASCAR.
Bestwick led the panel through a review of the three races and touched on the key points of the events. ESPN uses driver "soundbites" most effectively and again had the interviews that viewers wanted to see.
This included Shannon Spake's post-race interview with an upset Dale Earnhardt Jr. who seems to be a target for ESPN as The Chase closes in. Junior made a big mistake at the start of the race and never got his lap back. He wound-up in the top twenty.
Spake asked "You guys started the season so strong and the last couple of races you seem to have fallen-off a little bit, what do you think has changed?"
Junior answered "I appreciate you pointing that out, makes it a lot easier...there are a lot of guys who finished better than me who you need to probably go and interview right now."
Massaro defended Spake's question as being fair, but Said mentioned that the only mistake Junior made all night was on that first lap. Spake had suggested it was an issue with the set-ups or possibly the tracks. The look from Junior was priceless.
Bestwick hosted Joe Gibbs and Joey Logano who were in good spirits after the big announcement. Few are more professional in these situations than Bestwick and he handled the entire interview with flying colors. Bestwick's best question was about NASCAR approving Logano to race on the superspeedways in 2009.
In the middle of the Sprint Cup segments, coming back from commercial, NASCAR Now ran the normal edited feature using all the sights and sounds from the race weekend. Despite not dealing with it in the program, the NASCAR Now production team decided once again to use the Clint Bowyer audio clip where Bowyer speaks about Michael Waltrip as a driver and questions why NAPA returned to the team.
This move goes against almost everything that Bestwick has tried to bring to ESPN since being promoted from his pit reporter status to lead this Monday show. Bestwick deals with issues head-on, but when it was not discussed in the studio segment it was assumed cooler heads had prevailed and it was over. Apparently, that was not the case.
That leads to SPEED and This Week in NASCAR, which stars Mr. Waltrip on almost a weekly basis. Steve Byrnes hosts this series and chose to deal with the issue in the first ten seconds of the show. Byrnes hosts a relaxed and casual program with the panelists in shirts and slacks. Greg Biffle was alongside Waltrip on this Monday.
After some early teasing, Byrnes walked the panel through a good explanation of Bristol and Biffle's near-misses were the theme. Both made good points about the changed racetrack and the new issues that have arisen from the two-groove racing.
Byrnes took a minute to address the ESPN issue. Waltrip's point was that Bowyer's recorded comment under red did not make the race any better for the viewers. "It was not relevant content," added Biffle. Waltrip took the high road and said he was just a little bit disappointed.
Surprisingly, Byrnes continued the discussion and brought his NASCAR on Fox experience into the topic. He related that during commercial, the scanner audio will be played for the announcers by the Producer and then a decision will be made to use it on-the-air or not. "That's taken out of context, let's not use that," related Byrnes as the answer that is sometimes heard.
Ironically, Waltrip has been a commentator on the Craftsman Truck Series races on SPEED and he related that this is done by the SPEED Producer as well so that Waltrip and Phil Parsons can make a decision on the comment. Waltrip hoped someone at ESPN had taken a moment to maybe decide not to run the clip over-and-over again.
TWIN continued with Nationwide and Truck Series highlights, but then surprised viewers with an outstanding feature. Using footage from the NASCAR Media Group vault, vintage pictures of a youthful Mike Joy led an outstanding look back at the two former NASCAR tracks in California. Riverside and Ontario were venues that eventually gave way due to real estate prices and troubles with attendance.
Waltrip and Biffle provided a good overview of the issues associated with running at California. As usual, that led to Waltrip plugging his sponsors for California and letting Biffle talk briefly about his plans for next season. Byrnes followed-up with the Joey Logano news and both panelists agreed Logano would be fine in the Cup Series with a veteran like Greg Zipadelli leading the way.
Once again, NASCAR fans got to sample two very different TV shows dealing with the same issues on the same day. Both programs are extensions of the race production by SPEED and ESPN, with the casual style and the suit-and-tie crews working right next to each other at the tracks. In a way, both get the NASCAR message across and leave the viewing choices to the fans.
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